Here we are on the second part of the trip. Since the last posting, all wrapped up well at Kupang. The diving continued pleasant but unspectacular; it remained windy and we never had a day of great visibility (but plenty of nice little critters to keep us entertained). On the second last dive the current had been underestimated somewhat and it really took some effort to head into it - coming back, however, we were flying....... we had already worked out that one of the skills involved is not so much navigating back to the boat as predicting where it may have moved to - I can claim two big failures on that count.
Our last dive was at a spot our leader had obligingly christened 'Anne-Marie's Folly' after she batted her eyelashes at him and told her he really should name a dive site after her since he was still in the process of naming new sites - some people!
Mein host the German proprietor of La Hasienda looked after us very well, with suckling pig on the spit to round out the week and, on Saturday morning, a tour of the city which was part history (and only one church!), part graveyards (dutch and portuguese headstones), a local smithy (did you know that leaf springs make good knives) and a local musician group who have achieved worldwide acclaim with their traditional instruments, which have about forty strings. They have created one hooked up to an amp so we got to experience the Beatles, John Denver and Waltizng Matilda by 'sasando' - but all joking aside, they were actually very good. We are now suitably encultured.
We hit Bali with a mission impossible - find Anne-Marie an alternative dive camera - and succeeded, don't ask me how given the public holiday and all.
Our path to Permuteran was over the mountains, through Manduk and all the green tourism retreats. Our driver shepherded us into coffee tasting (yes it was nice), we waylaid his plans by stopping at local markets for nibblies along the way, and headed down the northern side of the slopes with the scent of fresh cloves and nutmeg drying everywhere along the roadside. Yum!
Our first dive at Permuteran was understated? disappointing? but since then we have caught a boat out to Menjadeng island which has been thoroughly deserving of its good reputation. The boat trip is quite short but stunning, we are very close to Java so as you head out you see the tops of three volcanoes peeking up above the clouds, one of which is apparently the Bromo, and from the island you see the rooftops of the nearest Javanese village glinting in the sun.
I am still muddling my way with the camera, the water at the island clear enough to give the fisheye lens a go and immediately I have found a new set of challenges - amongst them air bubbles (it's a 'wet lens' fitted in the water) and lens flare spoiling what Anne-Marie would term 'the money shot'. Meanwhile, her new toy is proving very impressive so she is happy again, or at least she was until tonight's local talent stepped up.
Tonight we are being treated - involuntarily - to the soundtrack of a local wedding or other festivity. The best description I can find is a constipated broody chicken with a megaphone. I think it's a wedding, with many prayers between the gamelan playing and crooning, and I am about to add my own that it will soon be over.
It has become apparent that the smart way to get to the Gilis from here would have been by boat from Amed, but I worked that out a bit late so we will return to and depart from Sanur as planned. Due to the altitude of the mountain road we can't go back the short way, so we are thinking of cancelling the thursday morning dive to give us damp, not wet, gear to pack and taking the day to do the drive, allowing for coffee, markets and camera stops.